Rock ’n‘ Roll
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2004, Volume 11, #12
Written by John Metzger
At the time that John Lennon began working on Rock ’n‘ Roll, his life was an utter mess. His marriage to Yoko Ono was falling apart; he was in trouble with his home country of England over a trumped-up drug possession charge as well as the return of his MBE to the Queen; and the government of the United States was trying to kick the couple out of America because of their outspoken political views. Even the album itself unnaturally evolved from an out-of-court settlement in which the former Beatle agreed to record a trio of songs controlled by publisher Morris Levy who had contended (rightfully so) that in writing the lyrics for Come Together, Lennon had copped a pair of lines from Chuck Berry’s You Can’t Catch Me. Injecting further turmoil into the proceedings, producer Phil Spector brandished a gun and fired it into the ceiling of the Los Angeles studio where the duo was sequestered. In other words, it’s not terribly surprising that Rock ‘n’ Roll became such a hit-and-miss affair, and although it’s been crisply remastered to the point where it now sparkles with an irresistible luminescence, it’s still not a terribly essential outing. Even so, there were at least a few extraordinarily worthwhile moments to be found, beginning with the sturdy romp through the song around which the project initially was conceived. Lennon poured his heart and soul into his cover of You Can’t Catch Me, fully making it his own, and if only he had captured a similar sense of inspiration on the remainder of the material, Rock ’n‘ Roll might have become a minor masterpiece. Alas, that wasn’t the case, and although he did deliver a playful, Elvis-y rendition of Be-Bop-A-Lula; an impassioned and soulful rendering of Stand By Me; and groovy, horn-splattered versions of Slippin’ and Slidin’ and Rip It Up/Ready Teddy, the bulk of the set was performed rather perfunctorily. Even if none of the four bonus tracks featured on the recent reissue of Rock ’n‘ Roll manage to eclipse the better selections on the original album, each — including the silly alternate ending to Just Because — holds its own and could have fit seamlessly into the endeavor without diminishing its remarkable charm.
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box